Coastal Capital - Jamaica (Summary)

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Coastal Capital: Jamaica evaluates the contribution of coral reefs to the Jamaican economy, as well as the benefits that will be lost if coral reefs degrade further.



oral reefs provide a diverse array of goods and ser-
vices to the people and economy of Jamaica. ey
help to build and protect Jamaica’s beautiful white
sand beaches, which attract tourists from around the world.
Reefs provide critical habitat for Jamaica’s artisanal and in-
dustrial sheries, and they also protect Jamaica’s coastline—
including coastal communities and tourist hotels—from the
destructive force of tropical storms.
Unfortunately, these benets have been frequently over-
looked or underappreciated in coastal investment and
policy decisions. As a result, overshing, poorly planned
coastal development, sedimentation, and pollution have
combined to threaten Jamaica’s reefs. ese local threats are
compounded by the growing global threats from climate
change, including warming seas and ocean acidication.
is suite of threats, coupled with Jamaica’s high reliance on
coral reefs, highlights the urgent need for improved coastal
and sheries management to reduce local pressures on reefs
and preserve the benets coral reefs provide to Jamaica.
Economic valuation—a tool which assigns a monetary value
to the goods and services provided by ecosystems—gives pol-
icy makers important information to help set priorities and
improve decision-making regarding natural resources. is
summary rst quanties the relationship between coral reef
degradation, beach erosion, and potential losses of tourism
revenue in Jamaica. We then assess the economic contribu-
tion of coral reef-associated sheries. Finally, we examine the
role of coral reefs in reducing coastal ooding during storms.
Tourism, sheries, and shoreline protection are just three
of the many culturally and economically important services
provided by reef ecosystems in Jamaica. Even without a
complete economic valuation of other ecosystem services,
the country’s coral reefs are clearly valuable. Investing in
the maintenance and enhancement of these reef-related
benets—and preventing future losses—is thus an impor-
tant investment in the health and sustainability of Jamaica’s
economy. For the full technical reports, including the valua-
tion methodology, please visit
CoastaI CapitaI: Jamaica
The Economic Contribution of Jamaica's Coral Reefs
he travel and tourism sector
plays a critical role in the Ja-
maican economy. Projections
suggest that this sector will account
for nearly 24 percent of Jamaica’s
gross domestic product in 2011. e
industry is also projected to directly
support 82,000 jobs (7 percent of total
employment), while the wider tour-
ism economy (including supporting
industries such as food, infrastruc-
ture, and communications) supports
262,000 jobs (23 percent of total
employment). In 2009, Jamaica drew
1.8 million overnight visitors and an
additional 900,000 cruise tourists.
Jamaica’s white coralline beaches
represent a primary draw for inter-
national tourists, and thus provide a
critically important contribution to
Jamaica’s economy. We estimate that
between 70 and 80 percent of tour-
ists care strongly about the presence
of beaches in their visits to Jamaica,
as the vast majority of “tourist days” are spent in one of
the three major beach destinations in the country—Negril,
Montego Bay, or Ocho Rios.
However, all three tourist destinations are aected by beach
erosion, which threatens to reduce visitation to Jamaica and
thus critical tourism revenue. e degradation of Jamaica’s
coral reefs, which supply sand to beaches and also dissipate
wave energy, is an important factor contributing to beach
erosion. Jamaica’s coral reefs have suered signicant mor-
tality in recent decades as a result of many human pressures,
including overshing, pollution, and coastal development
(Map 1). ese threats are compounded by coral bleaching
and disease, hurricanes, and a decline in Diadema sea ur-
chin populations (Diadema are herbivores that help main-
tain the balance between coral and algae on reefs).
To assess the role of coral reefs in preventing beach ero-
sion, we estimated how the further degradation of coral
reefs would lead to increased wave heights and thus in-
creased beach erosion.
Drawing on available data, we used
a base (current) erosion rate of 0.3 m/yr at the three sites.
We found that if further reef degradation occurs, erosion
rates could increase signicantly above the current rates at
1. The modeled scenario involved the loss of friction from live, stand-
ing coral cover, followed by the slower erosion of coral substrate (6
mm over 10 years).
all three sites, by more than 50 percent for Montego Bay,
70 percent for Ocho Rios, and more than 100 percent for
Negril over a 10-year period (Figure 1).
We then determined the loss in tourists’ enjoyment associ-
ated with a decline in beach quality due to increased erosion
at each site. We estimate that at the end of 10 years, current
erosion rates at the beaches in Negril, Montego Bay, and
Ocho Rios will cause an annual loss in value of US$19 mil-
Protecting Beaches and Tourism Dollars
Map 1 Jamaica’s reefs are at risk from overfishing, coastal development,
watershed-based pollution, and marine-based pollution
Source: Burke, L., K. Reytar, M. Spalding, and A. Perry. 2011. Reefs at Risk Revisited. WRI.
Negril Montego Bay Ocho Rios
Increased erosion due to reef degradation
Loss using current rate of beach erosion
Figure 1 Comparison of predicted beach loss over a
10-year period
If reefs degrade further, we estimate that the addi-
tional beach erosion will increase this annual loss to US$33
million that year (Table 1). is represents an additional
US$13.5 million per year—a 70 percent increase in the an-
nual loss of value from the base scenario if the reef degrades
further. is loss of value is projected to have knock-on
impacts by reducing tourist visitation to Jamaica by 9,000–
18,000 visitors annually, costing an estimated US$9 million
to US$19 million per year to the Jamaican tourism industry
and US$11 million to US$23 million per year to the entire
Jamaican economy (Figure 2).
e economic risks to the Jamaican tourism industry are
large. Beach erosion due to reef degradation will reduce
visitor demand, and the costs from beach engineering solu-
tions (such as sand replenishment) will likely increase in the
future. In order to promote reef protection, it is crucial that
key stakeholders take full account of the economic value
of reef-based ecosystem services. is requires that the
economic benets of coral reefs be publicized and leveraged
to build national political will for greater reef conserva-
tion. Environmental policy should also be strengthened to
address the drivers of coral reef degradation (overshing,
poorly planned coastal development and pollution). Fur-
thermore, new opportunities for long-term conservation
funding—such as new markets, payments for ecosystem
services, and charging polluters for damages—should be

This summary is based on:
Kushner, B., P. Edwards, L. Burke, and E. Cooper. 2011. Coastal
Capital: Jamaica. Coral Reefs, Beach Erosion and Impacts to
Tourism in Jamaica. Working Paper. Washington, DC: World
Resources Institute.
2. This calculation is based on Edwards, P. 2009.
Measuring the Recreational Value of Changes in Coral Reef
Ecosystem Quality in Jamaica: The Application of Two Stated
Preference Methods. Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Studies
thesis, University of Delaware. Edwards looked at tourists’
willingness to pay for environmental quality to determine the
loss in value per meter loss of beach width.
Table 1 Annual loss in consumer satisfaction (US$) at beaches due to coral reef degradation (after 10 years of erosion)
Loss in value due to current rates
of beach erosion
Loss per
Loss in value if the beach erodes
faster due to reef degradation
Loss per
Difference due to further
reef degradation
Negril $5.5 million $15 $10.9 million $30 $5.3 million
Montego Bay $7.1 million $15 $10.7 million $23 $3.6 million
Ocho Rios $6.5 million $15 $11.1 million $26 $4.6 million
Total: $19.2 million $32.7 million $13.5 million
Note: The loss in consumer satisfaction was calculated using a per meter value of $5.11 per visitor (based on Edwards 2009), coupled with the average num-
ber of overnight visitors a year for each site: Negril (360,927), Montego Bay (466,075), and Ocho Rios (425,026) (Jamaica Tourist Board 2009).
Total welfare
loss due to reef
Economic impacts
on tourism sector
Impacts on
High estimate
Low estimate
Figure 2 Losses from beach erosion due to further
reef degradation
(annual losses during the tenth year of erosion)

Jamaica’s Reef-Associated Fisheries: Diminished, Yet Vital
oral reef-related sheries—dened as sheries that
involve the capture of sh that depend directly on
coral reefs, mangroves, or reef-protected habitat
such as seagrasses for at least a portion of their life cycle—
are socially and economically important in Jamaica. Reef-
related sheries support between 15,000–20,000 active
shermen, most of whom are artisanal. Fisheries provide
coastal communities an important “safety net” of food
and employment in times of need. Jamaica’s sheries also
provide a wide range of employment—including wholesale
and retail vendors, processors, gear makers, boat builders,
and ice suppliers—and contribute directly and indirectly to
the livelihoods of more than 100,000 people island-wide, or
nearly 5 percent of the population.
Unfortunately, Jamaica’s nearshore waters are among the
most overshed in the Caribbean. Many artisanal sher-
men have few alternative sources of income, creating a high
level of dependence on Jamaica’s nearshore sheries. Use of
sh pots or traps with small mesh sizes, mechanization and
subsidies to the shing industry, along with a rapid increase
in spear-shing and compressor diving have all exacerbated
the overexploitation of Jamaica’s reef sheries.
For a long time, the Pedro Bank—located 80 km oshore—
had remained a healthier shery thanks to lower pressure
from land-based pollution and shermen alike. With Ja-
maica’s mainland shing grounds degraded, shing pressure
is increasing on the Pedro Bank, and illegal poaching (both
foreign and domestic) and inadequate enforcement threaten
the ecological sustainability of this oshore shery as well.
Likewise, the conch shery—Jamaica’s most strictly regu-
lated shery—is threatened by poaching and underreport-
ing of catches. A further threat to the country’s sheries has
been the recent explosion in the population of the lionsh—
an invasive carnivorous species—in Jamaican waters.
Despite these pressures, Jamaica’s sheries continue to pro-
vide valuable jobs and revenue for the country. From 2001
to 2005, gross revenue from the sale of reef-related sh av-
eraged US$33.1 million per year, including US$24.2 million
per year from domestic sales and US$8.9 million per year
from exports (Tables 2 and 3). We also estimate the value of
the subsistence catch (consumed domestically and not sold
on the market) to average US$1.2 million per year dur-
ing that time period. Combined, these sh sales contribute
US$34.3 million per year, a value equivalent to 0.3 percent
of Jamaica’s annual GDP.
While ocial data show that overall national trends in sh
catch volume and value have been relatively stable in recent
years, studies also show that the quality and average size of
sh landed are declining, and that shermen are having to
travel further out to sea to maintain their level of catch. In
Table 2 Value of fish catches in Jamaica in US$ millions, 1996–2005
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Finfish 46.6 20.8 15.6 23.5 17.1 16.3 26.2 17.2 32.9 26.6
Conch 10.5 13.4 12.5 10.0 – 6.9 6.9 3.7 4.0 4.7
Lobster 7.2 2.4 1.5 3.0 4.7 8.5 3.2 2.7 1.2 2.7
Shrimp 1.4 0.5 0.1 0.4 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.3
Total Value 65.8 37.2 29.7 36.5 22.1 32.0 36.6 23.9 38.5 34.3
Source: STATIN 2007 in ECOST 2007. (Adjusted to US$ 2011.)
Table 3 Average annual revenues from reef-related fisheries, 2001–2005
Avg. annual
Catch (MT)
% sold
Gross revenues (local
sales, US$ millions)
Gross revenues
(exports, US$ millions)
Avg. sale price
Total gross revenues
(US$ millions)
Finfish 6,383 90% $21.4 10% $2.4 $3.73 $23.8
Conch 717 5% $0.3 95% $5.0 $7.35 $5.3
Lobster 269 60% $2.2 40% $1.5 $13.71 $3.7
Shrimp 198 100% $0.3 0% – $1.55 $0.3
Total Value 7,566 NA $24.2 NA $8.9 NA $33.1
Source: ECOST 2007, STATIN 2007 in ECOST 2007 and Murray 2008.
(Adjusted to US$ 2011.)
3. Murray, A. 2008. Jamaica National Report. Belize City: Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Secretariat; ECOST Project. 2007. Case Study 2: Jamaica;
STATIN. 2007. Statistical Institute of Jamaica. Online at:
fact, due in large part to decreasing Jamaican sh stocks,
the country now has to import from abroad most of the sh
eaten on the island. ese trends indicate that the current
level of shing eort is not ecologically sustainable and that,
should this level of eort continue, yields will decline in the
future—along with the economic value of Jamaica’s reef-
related sheries.
In recent decades, the Jamaican economy has incurred high
losses from the decline of its reef sheries. A 2003 study
found that overshing at landing sites on Jamaica’s north
coast led to a 13 percent decline in total sh catch volume
and a 17.3 percent decline in sh catch value between 1968
and 2001. Scaling this up to the national level suggests that
Jamaica’s failure to eectively manage its sheries cost the
country US$1.6 billion in lost revenues over the period
from 1975 to 2000, not counting the Pedro Bank shery.
Recent positive steps taken by the Jamaican government—
including the draing of a National Fisheries Policy
beginning in 2003, the establishment of the National
Fisheries Advisory Board in 2008, the creation of new
sh sanctuaries in 2009 and 2010, and initiatives to
control the lionsh invasion—could all eventually
help to restore sh stocks in Jamaica and thereby
mitigate a key threat to the country’s coral reefs.
Passage of a new sheries law based on the
dra National Fisheries Policy—which aims to
achieve sustainable sheries yields—is therefore
essential. Adequate funding for implementation
and enforcement of sheries regulations—as
well as the political will for eective law en-
forcement—will be critical if these initiatives are
to curb the decline of Jamaica’s sheries.
Jamaica’s sheries are in a troubling state of decline, but
they are not beyond repair. Further investment in maintain-
ing coastal habitat, protecting coral reefs, and managing
sheries sustainably to restore sh stocks is greatly needed.
If Jamaica’s sheries were restored, they could make an even
greater contribution toward the country’s economy and to
the well-being of its people.

This summary is based on:
Waite, R., E. Cooper, N. Zenny, and L. Burke. 2011. Coastal Capi-
tal: Jamaica. The Economic Value of Jamaica’s Coral Reef-Related
Fisheries. Working Paper. Washington, DC: World Resources
Institute and The Nature Conservancy.
Past economic valuations of coastal and marine resources in Jamaica
WRI reviewed 14 previous economic valuation studies of
Jamaica’s coastal resources. These studies used a variety
of techniques to assess the values of tourism, fisheries,
shoreline protection, and other coastal ecosystem services.
Three of the studies were national in scope; the remain-
ing local-level studies focused on the three main tourist
destinations of Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios, as well
as Discovery Bay and Portland Bight.
The studies provide a rationale for increased investment in
the protection of Jamaica’s coastal ecosystems, and many
also explore sustainable ways to finance coastal and marine
conservation. However, these studies have had limited suc-
cess in influencing Jamaica’s policy makers. In some cases, the
studies were not made publicly available; in others, results
were not effectively communicated to decision makers. A full
list of the studies is available at
4. Sary, Z., J. Munro, and J. Woodley. 2003. Status Report
on a Jamaican Reef Fishery: Current Value and the Costs
of Non-management. Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries
Institute (GCFI).
Buffering Waves, Protecting Resources
oral reefs play an important role in protecting the
shoreline by reducing wave energy, during both
routine conditions and storms. is is apparent
where waves break on the edge of a coral reef and much
calmer water is found inside the reef. Coral reefs can reduce
wave energy by more than 75 percent. In this way, coral
reefs lessen coastal erosion and reduce inundation during
storms. e eectiveness of a coral reef in reducing wave
energy varies with the type of the reef, continuity and size of
the reef, distance from shore, depth below the surface, and
complexity (roughness) of the live coral structure on the
reef, as well as the wave height. Fringing, patch, and barrier
reefs protect an estimated 60 percent of Jamaica’s shoreline.

To assess the importance of coral reefs in reducing wave
energy and inundation in Jamaica, WRI worked closely with
partners in Jamaica to select three representative sections of
coastline and apply a hydrodynamic model for three pilot
sites (Negril, Discovery Bay, and the Kingston / Port Royal
Cays area). At the three pilot locations, we estimated in-
shore wave heights, water level at the shoreline, and coastal
inundation both for current coral reef conditions and with a
severely eroded coral reef for two storm scenarios (a 1-year
and a 25-year storm event).
As the reef degrades, larger inshore waves will result in in-
creased erosion and higher water levels at the shore. e dif-
ference in water level at the shoreline between the “current
reef ” and “severely degraded reef ” scenarios were highest
at Discovery Bay, with a dierence of 0.8 m for the one-
year return period storm and 0.6 m for the 25-year storm.
Smaller dierences were seen in Negril and Kingston/Port
Royal (Table 4).
In order to extrapolate from these three pilot sites to the
national level, we classied each segment of the Jamaican
shoreline according to ve coastal characteristics to identify
the pilot site it most closely matches. e coastal segments
identied as having high levels of shoreline protection from
reefs—similar to the Discovery Bay site—include Coral
Gardens, Falmouth, Discovery Bay, St. Ann’s Bay, Morant
Point, Savanna-La-Mar, and Southern Negril (shown in
dark blue in Map 2).
Using this classication scheme, along with our modeling
results, allows us to estimate areas—and identify valuable
buildings and infrastructure—that are likely to be inun-
dated if the reef erodes severely. Map 3 provides an example
of the mapping of change in inundated areas for the 25-year
storm event for the central north coast near Discovery Bay.
Areas in yellow have an elevation under 1.4 m and are ex-
pected to be inundated despite the wave attenuation by the
current reef. Areas in red are between 1.4 and 2.0 m eleva-
tion and are projected to be inundated (during the 25-year
event) if the reef becomes severely degraded. e additional
inundated area includes over 100 structures, including two
hotels, a church, and an aireld.
Classifying the relative protection aorded by reefs has
implications for strategies to rehabilitate and preserve reef
structure. is is particularly crucial on the north coast,
where fringing reef systems aord a high degree of protec-
tion and where a great deal of exposure exists in the form
of major hotels, mining and manufacturing infrastructure,
along with burgeoning population centers such as Montego
Bay, Falmouth, and Ocho Rios. Jamaica’s south coast—
dominated by shelf marginal and patch reef—is generally
aorded the least amount of protection from its reefs. ese
results support the case for targeted conservation of reef
structures along parts of the coastline where they oer the
greatest protection—to people, infrastructure, and valuable

This summary is based on:
Maxam, A., P. Lyew-Ayee, and K. McIntyre. 2011. A Classification
of the Protection given by Reef Systems in Jamaica - Utilizing GIS
and Oceanographic Methods of Analysis. Working Paper. King-
ston, Jamaica: Mona Geoinformatics Institute (MGI).
Table 4 Modeled change in water level at shoreline
for current and degraded reef condition
Study Site 
Water level at shoreline (in meters)
reef Difference
1-year 0.8 1.3 0.5
25-year 1.3 1.7 0.4
Discovery Bay
1-year 0.6 1.4 0.8
25-year 1.4 2.0 0.6
Port Royal/
1-year 1.0 1.4 0.4
25-year 2.7 2.9 0.2
Source: All wave height and shoreline water level results are from: Houser,
C. 2010. 2-D Analysis of Wave Attenuation and Run-Up for Select Sites in
Jamaica. Unpublished analysis summary for WRI. Texas A&M University.
Note: A 1-year storm event is the largest storm that occurs during a typical
year. A 25-year storm event is the largest storm likely to occur during a
25-year period.
5. Shoreline within 500 m of a coral reef was classified as protected.
(From Burke et al. 2011.)
Map 2 Relative shoreline protection from coral reefs in Jamaica
Source: MGI 2011. (The shoreline characterization is based on coral reef type, slope and orientation, distance from shore, and the complexity of the reef shape.)
Map 3 Modeled coastal inundation for a 25-year storm event near Discovery Bay, Jamaica
Source: MGI 2011.
Actions Needed
Coastal Capital: Jamaica shows that coral reefs provide real
benets to Jamaica’s economy. Many critically important
and economically valuable ecosystem services that reefs
provide could be lost—including reef-associated tourism,
shoreline protection, and habitat for sheries—resulting in
losses of jobs, revenue, and increased erosion and property
damage during storms.
Jamaica’s reefs are already threatened by overshing and
pollution, and are increasingly threatened by global chang-
es—especially warming seas. Jamaica’s reefs can survive
and recover, but this will require eective management
and protection. It is in the long-term economic interest of
Jamaica to:
Promote sustainable fishing:
!" Improve sheries management. Enact legislation and regu-
lations aimed at sustainable yields, and invest in improved
monitoring, enforcement, research and data collection.
!" Strengthen marine protected areas. Develop long-term
funding for integrated management eorts, including the
expansion of protected area networks and sh sanctuaries.
!" Provide for alternative livelihoods for artisanal shermen.
is will help to ease the intense pressure on Jamaica’s reef
Manage coastal development wisely:
!" Improve wastewater management. Enhanced management
of sewage, as well as runo from construction would im-
prove coastal water quality, beneting both coral reefs and
!" Protect mangroves. Mangroves serve as important sh
habitats, and also act as buers, reducing agricultural run-
o that reaches coral reefs. e government should seek
to protect remaining mangroves from clearance for beach
and coastal development.
!" Improve land-use planning and zoning. Reassessment of
the government’s current setback regulations would es-
tablish a more adequate buer zone between beaches and
coastal infrastructure, protecting both coastal ecosystems
and beachside hotels.
Reduce watershed-based sedimentation and
!" Promote improved agricultural techniques. Improved soil
conservation (using terracing) and reduced use of chemi-
cals would reduce ows of sediment and pollutants to
coastal waters.
!" Retain and restore vegetation. Reforestation—using local
species—would help reduce erosion, especially on steep
slopes and in riparian areas.
History demonstrates that conserving ecosystems begins
with widespread awareness of the benets they provide
and the political will to act. It will therefore be important
to publicize and disseminate the key ndings of Coastal
Capital: Jamaica to the Jamaican government, business
community, citizens, conservation groups, and development
agencies. Increased political will, new business initiatives
and grassroots advocacy will all be necessary to overcome
the barriers to conserving Jamaica’s coral reefs, ultimately
allowing reefs to continue to provide benets to Jamaica’s
economy—and people—for generations to come.
WRI and Economic Valuation of Coastal Resources
The World Resources Institute (WRI) launched the Coastal Capital proj-
ect in the Caribbean in 2005. The project works with local partners
to produce national and subnational assessments of the economic
contribution of coral reefs and mangroves. WRI aims to increase local
capacity to perform ecosystem valuations, to raise public aware-
ness of the economic and social benefits of marine resources, and to
provide estimates of the monetary value that can be used to inform
planning and decision making.
For more information
Please visit or contact:
Lauretta Burke ([email protected])
Benjamin Kushner ([email protected])
Photo Credits
Beach erosion: Emily Cooper
Fishermen: Edward Robinson
All others: Krishna Desai
Coastal Capital Project Partners
This project was made possible by funding provided by the John
D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The project was imple-
mented by WRI in collaboration with the University of the West Indies
(UWI) Marine Geology Unit (MGU), the Mona Geoinfomatics Institute
(MGI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Texas A&M University. Many
other partners in Jamaica also provided data, reviewed the analytical
approach and results, and guided outreach. These include: Caribbean
Regional Fisheries Mechanism; CARIBSAVE Partnership; Fisheries
Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries; International Union for
the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); University of the West Indies; and
Krishna Desai and Peter Espeut (independent).

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